Wayne and I arrived in the colonial city of Granada on Sunday, December 2nd. After getting lost in the municipal market and having a nice man help us with our location we eventually found La Perla, our home for the next 3 weeks. From the street this place looks like any ordinary Granada residence, but when you walk through the front door you are greeted with a beautiful 3 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom, pool, courtyard home. It’s spectacular! It also has A/C in the bedrooms and hot water – I never knew how much I would miss these essentials! Our plan wasn’t to find an extravagant place, but again, I was worried about the internet and the owner assured us that it wouldn’t be an issue in the house. This is actually the worst internet we have had so far!
Granada is packed with historical churches, a cathedral, bars, restaurants, markets, and trash! The city is beautiful, especially for the one day of the week when they clean the streets of all the trash. It’s amazing to watch the locals peeing in the gutters and throwing bottles and garbage in the street. It doesn’t seem to bother them as long as it’s not on their front porches which they keep immaculately cleaned daily. After a few days, I decided to ignore the trash so I can enjoy everything else Granada has to offer.
Wayne was off seeking adventure within the first day of our arrival, making his way to Volcan Masaya to hike around the crater and see the bat filled lava tunnels. Sounds like he had a blast and with the park entrance being on the Granada to Managua highway it was very convenient for him. He also started Spanish School at Spanish School Xpress on the Wednesday after we arrived. He’s in class from 8-12 every weekday morning for 2 weeks of one-on-one tuition. I can already tell he’s more confident talking with people so it’s been worth the $125 a week and he’s planning to continue classes in other cities we visit. I’m hoping I get a crack at it too, but with my work it’s nearly impossible. I do get to say “Buenos días ¿cómo estás?” to the cleaning lady every morning. We smile and I’m sure she thinks I’m an idiot.
Just north of Granada is the the artisan capital of Nicaragua, Masaya, which is known for it’s hammocks, wood working, wicker, pottery, and leather goods. We travelled on a very packed local bus to see the municipal market, the artisan market and the hammocks being made. It sure was a sight to be seen. The “Mercado Municipal Ernesto Fernandez”, full of the noises and smells of a busy Central American market sells anything and everything. It is huge and you couldn’t see the end in any direction, whereas the newer artisan craft market which is set within a 19th century structure only had stalls selling handmade goods from the area. Apparently this is known as a tourist-only market and the locals will not shop there, understandably, due to it being higher priced and full of hammocks, pottery and woodwork aimed at the hoards of visitors coming to Masaya. In the old market we heard there were street kids that would pick your pockets, but we didn’t see anything like that fortunately. Everyone was extremely nice as they tried to sell us their goods. We laughed as we passed a few guys making shoes because we couldn’t believe how fast they were making them on what looked like very ancient equipment.
We found our way to the hammock district, a couple of square blocks where the locals make hammocks from their houses to sell at the markets. They will invite you into their homes to show you their designs. It’s pretty cool, but I prefer just to browse until I see what I like. Wayne went back to Masaya another day and after spending an hour wandering around 10 or so “Casas de Jamacas”, he purchased a very nice 2 person hammock, which we now need to figure out how to get back to the US.
We also travelled to a few of the villages surrounding Masaya, called the Pueblos Blancos. Again, the artisans sell everything from their houses or gardens. We watched bamboo baskets, furniture and ceramics being made. We really do take for granted all the equipment we have in the States for these tasks, but at least I know these haven’t been mass produced in China! I don’t know why we did this as we have no home and are backpacking around the world, or at least Central America right now, but we purchased a very pretty ceramic vase and a bamboo wine bottle holder which we also have to try to get home before leaving for the Corn Islands at Christmas.
During our visit to Catarina, one of the Pueblos Blancos, Wayne heard loud music coming from a local house. This time of year they celebrate La Purisma, a tribute to the Virgin Mary where family and friends gather at houses to play music, sing and pray and the children are all dressed in white. The family noticed Wayne standing in their doorway and offered for us to come in to celebrate with them. They handed us some strange red alcoholic drink which was really sweet and strong! We tried to converse with them to thank them for their generosity and the beautiful music. I guess it’s good for Wayne to be nosey sometimes.
The main square in Granada is packed with vendors selling everything from Cokes to hammocks. It’s also the only place to pick up a horse drawn carriage that takes you to the churches, the cathedral and the other historical places in town. We chose to go with cart #24 which belonged to Gabrielle. He has been doing this for 6 years and his horses were in pretty good shape – some horses didn’t look like they faired so well and we didn’t want to contribute to that! The tour lasted an hour and it was lots of fun being pulled by the horses on the bumpy roads around Granada.
On Sunday we wanted to take a 5 mile walk to Laguna de Apoyo, a lake in the crater of an extinct volcano. We saw the lake from Catarina and we heard that it was clean enough for swimming (I guess the trash doesn’t flow there). The first two miles were city walking and the last three were down a dirt road that wasn’t heavily populated. We had explored new roads many times in Costa Rica and didn’t think twice about taking this adventure. About half a mile on the dirt road a 4×4 asked if we wanted a lift, we declined and verified that we were going in the right direction. We thought it was a nice gesture. A further half mile down the road a dilapidated truck stopped and asked us where we were going, we started to take notice that something was not right. Fortunately for us, the man’s daughter spoke English and told us not to continue because robbers are renowned towards the end of the road and they’ll take everything from “people like us”. I didn’t need to convince Wayne to turn around. It’s common to see people with machetes in this area and I didn’t want to be at the end of one. This wasn’t the first time that day we were told not to continue on a road. We really aren’t in Costa Rica anymore and we need to be more vigilant about our safety!
December 2nd – December 26th 2012